SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE 11:14 AM Tuesday June 6, 1995

Bennett wins local chess club championship

FITCHBURG — U.S. Chess Federation-rated life master Allan Bennett of Chelmsford scored six wins and one loss to win the 1995 St. Joseph Chess Club championship in Cleghorn.

After trailing front-runner Dave Allard of Fitchburg for nearly 1½ months, Bennett was able to claim victory on May 31, when Allard lost to USCF expert Erik Zoltan of Bolton in the ninth round of play. The loss put Allard at a score of 4-2, but he is expected to benefit from a forfeit win in the 10th round against Class A rival Jose Guzman of South Lancaster, who has dropped out of the tournament.

Despite the forfeit win, Allard will end up in third place behind USCF expert George Mirijanian of Fitchburg, who finished the tourney with a 5½ - 1½ tally.

Zoltan, who currently stands at 3½ - 2½, will also gain a forfeit win against Guzman. His final opponent in the 10th round will be Class B contender Leonard Arsenault of Leominster, who stands at 3 - 3.  The winner of the Zoltan-Arsenault game will take fourth place.



Dave Allard — Erik Zoltan


[Mason Variation]

1. d4 d5 2. Bf4!? [This is the characteristic move of the Mason Variation, named after the Irish-born master James Mason (1849-1905), who played it regularly in the 1880s. Mason, one of the world's best half-dozen players in the early 1880s, was a journalist. Born in Kilkenny, Ireland, he adopted the name James Mason (his original name is unknown) to avoid discrimination against his Irish background when he and his family immigrated to the United States in 1861. He became a shoe-shine boy in New York City and frequented a Hungarian cafe where he learned chess. Coming to the no­tice of J. Gordon Bennett of the "New York Herald," Mason was given a job in the newspaper's offices, a start in life that both suited his literary aspirations and gave him the chance to study chess. In 1876, he made his mark, winning first place in the 4th American Congress in Philadelphia. He eventually settled in England in 1878 and was a regular tournament participant in that country. Fond of drink, Mason is alleged to have lost many games when in a 'hilari­ous condition.' Although consid­ered by his peers to be a jolly good fellow first and a chess player afterwards, he never fulfilled the promise of his first years in England. Instead, he wrote books on the game, in excellent style, no doubt as a result of his journalistic background. His two most popular textbooks, "The Principles of Chess in Theory and Practice" (1894) and "The Art of Chess" (1900) both ran to several editions and have been published in numerous languages. Another of his books, "Social Chess" (1900), contains many short and brilliant games. Mason died Jan. 15, 1905, in Rochford, England. Another player of renown who adopted the Mason Variation with regularity was New England master Harlow B. Daly (1883-1979) of Sanford, Maine, and Framingham, Mass., who champi­oned it during the 1940s, '50s and '60s. More commonly played nowa­days is 2. c4, introducing the Queen's Gambit, or 2. Nf3 or 2. e3, leading to other queen pawn open­ings such as the Colle System or the Stonewall Opening.]

2...Nf6 [Worthy of consideration was the Steinitz Countergambit, 2...c5!, which was seen in the game James Mason vs. Wilhelm Steinitz, played in London on June 19, 1883. That game continued 3. dxc5? Nc6 4. Nf3 f6! 5. e3 e5 6Bg3 Bxc5 and Steinitz, who was destined to become world cham­pion in 1886, gained the upper hand against Mason and forced the latter's resignation in 30 moves. After 2...c5!, White had nothing better than 3. e3, although he could have been tempted to try the Norris Gambit, 3. e4?!, which leads to a good game for White after 3...dxe4 4. d5! and stimulates interesting play after 3...Nc6 4. Nc3! cxd4 5. cxd5 dxc3 6. dxc6. Now Black has nothing better than 6...Qxd1+, since 6...Qa5?? would be refuted by 7. b4! and after 7...Qxb4 8. Qd5!, White is winning.]

3. e3 Bf5 [3...e6, although play­able, would unnecessarily shut in Black's light-squared bishop. 3...c5! was still a viable option.] 4. Bd3 [White should have considered 4. c4!?, transposing the game to a Queen's Gambit.] 4...Bxd3 5. Qxd3 Nbd7 6. Nf3 g6! 7. Nbd2 [7. c4! was better.] 7...Bg7 8. c3? [8. c4! begged to be played.] 8...0-0 9. h4! h5 [In view of White's threat of 10. h5, Black was prudent in stopping this advance.] 10. 0-0-0? [A better continuation was 10. Ne5!, for now White will pay dearly for castling queenside.] 10...c5! [After fiddling and diddling for several moves, Black finally plays an effective counter thrust in the center. It was long overdue.]

 11. Rdg1? [White's plan is clear, but faulty. He thinks he will get ac­tive play on the kingside by supporting the advance of the g-pawn to open files on that flank. He should have first played 11. Ne5!, stymieing Black's counterplay in the center.] 11...Ng4! 12. Qe2 cxd4 13. exd4 [Naturally, 13. Nxd4?? would have allowed 13...e5!, while 13. cxd4 would have been risky be­cause it would have opened up the c-file to an attack by Black. White could have avoided all this by playing 11. Ne5!] 13...e5! [The start of Black's counterplay.] 14. Be3 Re8 15. dxe5? [Safer and bet­ter was 15. Qf1.] 15...Ndxe5 16. Nxe5 Bxe5 [Also good was 16...Rxe5] 17. Nf3?? [Correct was 17. Qf3. Now Black's pressure on the e3 square will become unbear­able.] 17...Bf4! 18. Kb1

18…Nxf2! 19. Qxf2 Bxe3 20. Qf1 Bxg1 21. Rxg1 Qe7 22. Ng5 f6 23. Nh3 Qe4+ 24. Ka1 Kg7 [Better was 24...Re5, with the threat of 25...Rae8, since 25. Qxf6?? would lose to a queen sacrifice and a back-rank mate after 25...Qe1+ 26. Rxe1 Rxe1#] 25. g4?! hxg4 26. Nf4 Re5 27. h5 Rae8! 28. h6+ Kh7 [Black could have played 28...Kxh6. He didn't have to fear 29. Rh1+, since White would be dead lost after 29...Kg7] 29. a3 [White creates a little “luft" for his king, but it is in vain.] 29...Qe1+ Ka2 Qxf1 31. Rxf1 Rf5! 32.Rd1?! [Faced with losing a piece to Black's nasty threat of 32...g5 or32...Re4, White is just about at his wits' end and leaves his knight "en prise."] 32...Rxf4 33. Rxd5 Re7 and Allard resigned. (0-1)

(George Mirijanian has been the Sentinel & Enterprise chess columnist since 1969. His column appears every Sunday.)